Let’s accept it. Nowadays we like our woman to be ‘modern’. The one who can carry off beautiful knee length dresses or wear that occasional shorts for vacations, be articulate and speak English with elan, can accompany you for parties and share a drink or two. She works, has a career and earns a double income for the family. She is ideal in every sense of the word since she would not mind trading the dress for the heavily embellished sari for a cousin’s wedding. She does not like to be dictated upon, but the men do not mind as this is the way they want to see their woman, modern yet traditional. Its her choice to live her life that way, by participating in weekend parties and sharing her wisdom over the best brand of liquor but the men do not mind as its the way they prefer their woman. Eventually it is the man’s choice of how he wants to see the woman. Otherwise the man completely considers it to be his right to tell her that she cannot wear the backless blouse since it reveals a lot more than he expects.
People who have bothered to read till here must be thinking that what’s wrong with the man agreeing to a girl partying or her choices of clothes? or for that matter ‘giving her the liberty to work’ (yes! that’s what it is..giving her…the right to make career decisions is of course not her own)? Is it not that for an equal society we want the man to be progressive and just like the way it is described above?
The catch lies there. Supposedly the woman refuses to oblige and sticks by her backless blouse choice? then? The answer is quite clearly written all over our horizon and faces….apply the oldest trick in the book to malign her and in today’s time, use the easiest way out- that she is immoral just because she wears modern dresses, drinks, smokes and party. It is extremely unfortunate but true that the virtues that modern Indian men look for in their partners often turn out to be the vices they are fighting in the Courtrooms. That being a ‘modern’ woman is not easy in India.
I often think about how do you define modernity. A favourite Bengali author of mine had once written that the shade of lipstick or the amount of make up cannot decide how modern you are..you mindset, your thoughts do! Alas! as a society we have not yet been so futuristic to measure our modernity quotient on those terms. But then again, what’s wrong with make up? I love wearing make up and so does many woman I know who are successful in their chosen fields- work or home making. But it is the contrast of thought that men and women in India have over the idea of make up that is horrifying. In India if a woman is wearing make up and looks attractive, it must be for a man. Most definitely it cannot be for herself. And that means you are inviting your own trouble. The trouble of being modern.
And you think people are different? No! they are not. When Tarun Tejpal wrote that horrendous e-mail, I thought it was stupid enough for a man of his stature to do something like that. But it was more of his colleague Ms. Choudhary’s reactions that offended me more. It was as such as she was subscribing to everything that she had decided to speak up against till date…and that included not considering it to be her responsibility to inform the police when the charges involved were of Sexual harassment.
But more than that, I expected the rape trial of Mr Tejpal to be different. One fought on facts and evidence and definitely not on the presumptions of the woman’s character. And I was so wrong! Mr Tejpal has been over the years a flagbearer of freedom of speech, or so we thought. One man whom we could trust to be modern in his thoughts, who allowed the woman in his lives to follow their dreams freely…and not judge her just by the colour of her lipstick.
And there was the surprise. Mr Tejpal’s argument about the futility of the allegations pointed out to the woman’s character, of her being modern and choosing to party even after the incident. Oh! yes that’s such a defense you know. It does not matter that she was an employee of Tejpal’s company and one who chose to fulfill her professional obligations even in the moment of personal crisis. It just mattered that her employer liked to see her that way always- smart and suave modern woman who attends parties, and when a sexual encounter does not work out the way he wants, he has the liberty to use that image against her.
After all it’s always his world!